Sunday, June 24, 2012

What is happening in Syria means we need a bullet proof global arms trade treaty more than ever

For over a year the ruthless Assad dictatorship in Syria has terrorised and murdered thousands of its own people. The bodies of adults and children have been burnt and destroyed by the Assad army. A recent UN report has revealed that children have been used by Syrian troops as ‘human shields’ and as child soldiers during the conflict.

The US government has alleged that Russia is sending attack helicopters to the regime and warned that Syria’s conflict could become even deadlier. Russia has continued to insist that any arms it supplies to the country are not being used to suppress anti-government dissent. Personally I think that’s bullshit- Russia's veto of the UN security council resolution on Syria was followed by reports of continuing arms sales by Russia's state arms trader.

It is estimated that almost 10,000 civilians have been killed in Syria – the time has come for Russia to stop transferring arms to Syria. But Russia isn’t the only one responsible for the deadly but booming arms trade- $45-60 billion arms sales are agreed each year. Each year enough bullets are made to kill every person on this planet twice; At least 1500 people are killed in armed conflict & violence every single day- these deaths are not unavoidable. They are the tragic consequence of an arms trade that is out of control.

It is one of most corrupt trades in world, a lot of the arms that western governments have sold have gone into the hands of military dictatorships or corrupt governments. Tea gas grenades used by Egypt security forces to gas their own citizens in November 2011 were supplied by the US, some were even made in the UK. A recent Amnesty report  highlighted how the UK, USA, France and other countries sent weapons to Libya, Bahrain and Yemen despite clear signs that these weapons would be used by repressive governments against its own civilians.

This senseless violence could have stopped a long time ago, but for Russia and China vetoing UN Security Council resolutions, putting profit from arms sales before people.
We have treaties to regulate the global trade of many products, even Bananas, dinosaur bones, postage stamps, but not guns & bullets- there is virtually no accountability on how weapons are traded between countries, or how they are used. 

There will be a meeting at the United Nations in New York next month, where countries from around the world will gather to negotiate the first-ever international arms trade treaty.
The aim of such a treaty is to have a globally agreed set of standards to regulate the trade of all conventional arms, stopping the sale of weapons to places that pose a serious risk to human rights. 

A draft treaty has already been published, which – if adopted – would ban all weapons sales to countries that could use them to abuse human rights, or encourage corruption or armed violence. Most countries support the idea of such a treaty, but under pressure from their own arms industry, some want it watered down. China, India, Pakistan want to leave out small arms like machine guns & assault weapons. US wants to leave out bullets. Anna Macdonald, head of arms control campaigning at Oxfam, states: "Guns are useless without bullets. Bullets are what turn guns into lethal weapons. It is absolutely essential that the sale of ammunition is included in the treaty. It would be totally irrational to leave it out. The price paid in human lives for the trade in ammunition is incalculable."

The UN security council's permanent members, China, France, Russia, UK and the USA, are also (alongside Germany) the world's largest profiteers from arms sales. If this treaty is going to work, it needs to include a wide range of weapons, equipment & deals, & it must safeguard human rights.

There is a need to push for a treaty that regulates and asks states to track their sales of ammunitions. The problem is that conflict zones are already flooded with weapons. It is the continued sale of ammunition that makes those weapons far more deadly than the clubs they would be otherwise.

The UK government must take a leading role in the international talks to secure a binding and comprehensive arms trade treaty to stem the flow of weapons and ammunition to rights abusing governments. To help save those lives all you need to do is persuade Cameron to get it right. He can only do that by publically committing that the UK will not compromise on human rights during the negotiations. 

The world needs a bullet proof arms trade treaty. Please email your MP now asking them to support one

For further information on this, here’s a few links:

*A shorter version of this article was published through the UK's most popular left wing blog, Liberal Conspiracy @

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